Saturday, December 02, 2006

Winter Wonderland

Snow domeThe recent midwest storm that made all the news this week dumped about 18" on us in town. It seems to be less (6" or so) out at the dome site, I guess because it's atop a ridge & doesn't get a lot of drifting, but it was still knee-deep along the bottoms at the west end of the property. The dome itself is quite snug, Mike has been checking to make sure the pipes aren't freezing or anything. It looks quite charming with a coating of snow along the top.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Googling the Dome

Dome Hill Farm... catchy name, huh?I like to goof around on Google Maps sometimes, see if it can zoom in close enough to see cars & stuff like that. OK, you knew I was a nerd already, right? The hybrid map/satellite imagery is particularly cool, but unfortunately, the satellite images are often a year or two out of date. Well, it's a big planet, I guess they get around to updating it as often as they can.

Anyway, I googled the dome site the other day, and behold! The dome now shows up! Or, at least, the basement walls do. The image must have been taken on a sunny day in late May or early June of last year, sometime between when the dome kit was delivered (you can see it stacked up between the structure & the road) and when the frame went up. I drew in the approximate property lines for the nine acres. The land is highest along the east side, and then slopes down to the west. There's also a little pond nestled into the trees in the northwest quadrant. (A bigger pond is just on the other side of the northwest corner.) To the west, a lightly wooded area between us & the nearest houses.

We're on the map! :-)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Interior Framing

Mike in the closetWork is going to continue through the winter with various framing tasks. Here's one of the master bedroom closets (with the access panel to the tub right behind Mike's knees,) which is one of the last things on the first floor. Mike is planning to put lots of built-in shelves and stuff, especially in oddball triangular corners, of which every room seems to have at least one.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Just working away

Working the seamI wish I had more exciting progress to show, but it's moving along. Got a few more weeks to make it weathertight before winter sets in. It's supposed to be a cold, snowy one.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The score so far

4 mice
1 large wolf spider
Many crickets (too many to count)

Mike is done with the west-facing dormer on the 2nd floor. One down, seven to go. :-)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Progress on several fronts

Many things have been happening out at the dome, but I never can seem to get pictures of them, because Mike goes out there to work & nearly always forgets to take pictures. I did my best to remedy this situation today...
Tank boyThe propane tank was installed last week. They really are rather unlovely things, but necessary to country living, where there's no gas main under the sidewalk. It's located at the end of the driveway, far enough back that we can't slide into it due to ice or inattention, but close enough that the fill truck can access it reasonably easily. The HVAC guy also came out last week & tested the heater, too.
Shed a skinWhile working with the heater, Mike found that some kind of animal (mice, rats, who knows what) had been nesting in the insulation. An empty structure is a haven for all kinds of pests, but we need to make sure the place is reasonably creature-free before we put up drywall, so we've put out traps (both sticky & snap-traps) and some rodent bait. So far we haven't caught anything but some crickets and spiders in the sticky traps, but we also found a rather impressive snakeskin where a serpent apparently took advantage of the quiet sheltered spot of our basement. Mike doesn't like snakes, but I don't mind 'em when they eat rats & things... he was originally in favor of treating any snake found on the property with extreme prejudice, but I am trying my best to talk him out of that. Out of the fifty-plus snakes native to Missouri, only a handful of them are poisonous. We have negotiated a compromise where brown patterned snakes may be dealt with, but others are left alone. In this part of the world, "brown patterned snake" means a copperhead, a timber rattler, or one of a few non-poisonous imposters. "Others" means the black rat snake, the bull snake, various green-colored grass/garter snakes, and a host of beneficial, rodent-eating serpents. I can live with them.
Mixing it upWe just couldn't seem to get a bid on the concrete work -- no contractor was willing to take on such an oddball job -- so Mike finally bit the bullet & started on it himself. Lo & behold, it wasn't as difficult as he had feared, just plain old hard work. The second-floor west-facing window dormer is serving as his training ground. He starts by mixing up the quick-crete in small batches...
Scratch coat around the window...and then putting the first coat, which is called the scratch coat, around the window dormer. We actually both took a turn doing this, but Mike is much better at it than I am, I am quick to confess. Nonetheless, we'll probably both be doing our share of it on the weekends until it gets done.
Who's at my window?I came inside to fetch the stepstool, while Mike kept working on the concrete. Look at our view! This is looking more-or-less north, over our second lot.
Every castle needs a throneSo, yes, there is stuff happening out at the dome. One last improvement of note -- the plumbers came out to finish their last little bit of work, and installed one very important household fixture in the basement. Hurray. The female members of the crew (aka Ali & myself) are very happy.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


The earth-mover guy came in for the last two days to grade & gravel the driveway. He used a type of rock mixture that starts out loose, but eventually packs down with wear & moisture to form a fairly hard surface. There's a big horseshoe-shaped drive in the front, as well as the drive that runs around back to the garage. It took six truckloads! (Too big to get a proper picture of the whole thing.)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Heat Wave

Mike took the week off to avoid working himself into a sunstroke in the brutal heat that has been gripping the whole country... but the heat has broken with yesterday's storms & the forecast looks much better for next week. More pictures soon, I promise.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Importance of Using UL-Rated Tools

Notice the dark char mark where the cord was cut(A comedy in one act)

Scene: Exterior of dome, morning.
Mike, carrying a hedge trimmer, and Ali from stage left.

Mike: OK, kiddo, I've got a job for you.
Ali: Sure, what is it?
Mike: I need you to trim back the bushes & weeds that have grown up under this window. That'll make it easier to get the ladder in here to finish putting up the lathe.
Ali: Sure! Cool! (reaches for hedge trimmer)
Mike (holds back trimmer:) Wait a second! You need to be careful with this thing, it can be dangerous if you're using it incorrectly.
Ali: I know, Dad, I'll be careful.
Mike: I want you to cut the bushes about 6 inches off the ground. (demonstrating on a five-foot or so area) Hold the trimmer level with the ground and sweep it from side to side.
Ali: I know, Dad!
Mike: And most important, make sure you keep the cord well away from the trimming blade!
Ali: I know, Dad, I know! I'm not dumb!
Mike: Ok, then, here you go. Be careful.
Ali: I know, Dad.
(About fifteen minutes later, there is a large popping sound. Sparks fly & the circuit breaker trips with another loud pop.)
Mike: Al-l-l-l-i!
Ali (in a very small voice:) ummm.... sorry?

(Disclaimer: No one was hurt during the enactment of this comedy.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Window in the Sky

Extension ladderToday Mike tackled the hardest of the second-floor dormers: Ali's bedroom, which is the only one that doesn't have a first-floor dormer underneath it. It's also on the side with the walk-out basement wall exposed. All this adds up to one long ladder. Mike tied it down, and wore a harness tied off (through the window) to a beam on the inside, as well. He also wore a very chic safety helmet borrowed from Hunter's sk8r gear.
Nailing the mesh downAfter five hours of working atop the ladder, all he can do is complain about the burning in his calves. :-(

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Some More Windows

Southern exposureThe dormers are coming along nicely, thanks to Ali & Mike who have been working diligently pretty much every day. On the second floor, Mike is reinforcing the window dormers (which were a little under-engineered) by running 2x4's next to the windows, prior to insulating & closing them up with plywood. The temporary braces will come down when the plywood goes up. This is the bedroom above the master bedroom, which Hunter has claimed (for the moment). The view is to the southeast, over our friend Bill's property.

The south sideHere's the same window, plus the master bedroom below it, from the outside. The tar paper & expanded metal lathe is up & it's ready for concrete!

Father-daughter danceA bonus picture of the world's best dad-and-daughter dome builder team.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


As always, click for larger pictures.
Atop the laddersMore pictures of the pre-plaster work on the dormers. Mike built the scaffolding & braces.
Nailing it downMike applies the mesh over the tar paper.
It's all a conspiracy, manAs a totally unrelated aside, I took the kids to see the new Pixar movie Cars last weekend. I was surprised... no, delighted... to see that Fillmore, the hippie-dippy VW microbus (expertly voiced by George Carlin,) lives in a day-glo-painted geodesic dome! You can see a bit of it on the right side of this promo shot. :-)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Tar paper

Summer domeThe roofing paper is going up! This is the first step of stuccoing.

Note that the saggy front deck has been ripped out & replaced with a temporary set of steps that were borrowed from a neighbor. Mike has promised to rebuild the deck properly, with a railing & nice steps & everything.

Friday, June 02, 2006


No pictures to show, mostly because Mike keeps forgetting to take the camera out there, but three of the first floor dormers now have their insulation and/or interior plywood what-do-you-call-it, the inside of the wall. Facing? I have no idea what it is properly called. Anyway, Mike & Ali have been working as a team; Ali goes first, cutting & fitting the insulation, then Mike comes along behind her, closing it up with the plywood. They make a pretty good duo... Ali has inherited her dad's skill with working with his hands, it seems.

We're into the early-summer rains, which means that exterior work is very weather-dependent. Nothing done on the outside for the last few days due to the recent heavy downpours. Mike will need to wait for a clear spell to test out his new scaffolding.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Entry Framing

Step insideA picture of the plywood on the interior of the entry way, which has been reinforced & insulated. Note the sawhorse table in the foreground -- Mike was appalled at how much a sawhorse cost at Lowe's, so he built a few. A leftover piece of plywood makes a nice work table.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Progress report

Work continues at a slow pace, but progress is being made. Unfortunately, I have no pictures at the moment; I'll see if I can't get some soon.

Last week Mike finished squaring & shimming all the exterior doors, installing said doors' hardware, and removing the slapdash front deck that was so poorly constructed that it was already beginning to sag. (Yet another thing we need to redo.)

This week he plans to apply to all of the first-floor dormers the felt-paper stuff that is the first layer of masonry; also, he will reinforce and insulate the high-profile front-entry dormer opening, which will otherwise turn into a major heat-loss area.

One of the things we have learned about dome construction is this: it is not for people who don't enjoy finding solutions to oddball problems. The non-right-angle geometry means that, at every step, you wind up saying to yourself, "Well, in an ordinary house I would do thusly, but that won't work here, so..." and then you have to puzzle out what is likely to work best. Some people enjoy such a challenge; some folks would be driven batty by it. Fortunately, Mike is about 75% in the former category.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Work Resumes

Squaring it upAfter a winter hiatus & far too much legal drama with our ex-contractor, work has finally resumed on the dome, with Mike at the helm. Today's project was to redo the half-assed installation of the front door, square it up, and install the permanent hardware (locks and handles.) Here, Mike shims the door frame, something the contractor didn't bother to do. I am just so happy to see something happening with the dome... we've both been quite bummed over the winter months that we didn't get anywhere near done last year. Now, with Mike doing the bulk of the remaining work, it will go slowly; but at least we can be sure of where the money's going.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Auction Today

Today we discovered the joys of country auctions... specifically, a building-materials auction down at the fairgrounds. Our neighbor Bill called Mike early this morning and basically said, Get down here, they've got a bunch of stuff you've been looking for. What a zoo! I've never been to an auction before. The auctioneers (a father-son team) doing that rapid-fire singsongy thing, hordes of contractors & good old boys milling about looking at cabinets & tubs & sinks & tile & whatnot, the women tending to gather in the back riding herd on the kids. Mike bid on & won some very nice 2 3/4" unfinished oak flooring, enough to do the whole 1st & 2nd floors, and at a bargain price -- we paid less than half of what we would have paid at Home Depot. Such a deal.

The bidding was a little crazy, but we managed to come out of it OK. There were three pallets of the flooring, which were sold by the board foot, and Mike determined that we needed two of them; but he got into a bit of a bidding war with another guy & had to go up to 75¢ before his rival dropped out. (The previous three pallets, in a wider board, had been won at 55¢ by our electrical contractor, who is building a house down in Centerview.) Still a bargain, the stuff goes for at least $1.40 - $1.50 at the home warehouse stores. With multiple-unit auctions, when you've won, you tell the auctioneer how many units you want, and if there are any left they auction those separately. So Mike told him he wanted two pallets & they went on to auction the third. No one was all that interested in a single pallet; auctioneer père was pressing Mike pretty hard to bid it -- he dropped the bid increments to 2.5¢ to keep him interested -- and something was nudging me at that point, telling me we'd need it. So we got the third pallet for a paltry 42.5¢. Later, we checked our calculations & realized we had done the math wrong & would need nearly all of the square footage of three pallets. Score!

Monday, January 02, 2006

An exciting milestone

It's electrifying!O happy day, there is work being done on the dome again. The new electrician that Mike hired just before the holidays has been out there wiring away all last week & this. The main breaker panel (down in the utility room) is a joyous sight with lots of wire being run to it.